Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kalo Pascha! Chronia POLLA!

Midnight service last night was a feast for the senses - particularly the eyes and ears. About 11:30 at night, the town started to gather in the churchyards. Naturally, the priests had been at it much longer but the Greeks, being a practical bunch and trusting the priests to take care of business properly on their own, mostly show up at the high point of the mass at the tail end.

Everyone is holding their lambathes or Easter candle. Children are dressed in their best and are wildly excited. The priests' sonorous voices are broadcast over tinny speakers into the church yard. But the little boys (and not a few adults) can't contain themselves while the priests ramble on and start lighting their firecrackers. Of course the close quarters of the buildings and the marble architecture all make for an acoustically perfect cacophony to scare away the demons. Although, I think the boys' intentions were to drown out the old bishop and priests.

At one minute to midnight the lights in the church are doused and the bishop and priests, glittering in golden robes, emerge in the doorway bearing the Holy Flame, flown in by jet that day from the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. One by one, the priests start lighting the candles of the faithful and they, in turn, light the candles of the person next to them. Within minutes the entire crowd is bathed in the gentle light of their candles. The church bells all over town start clanging joyfully - but the firecrackers and even larger fireworks compete with the bells. Everyone greets each other, kissing and shaking hands, wishing each other Kalo Pascha (Happy Easter) and Chronia Polla (many years) and Cristos anesti (Christ has risen). This goes one for quite some time, as the people then slowly disperse to make their way back home - carefully shielding their candle flame. If it goes out, a passing neighbour will re-light it for them with their candle. But the objective is to get the holy light back home to bless the house. You will see a smoke charred mark of the cross above every doorway. Now the feast begins as the Lenten fast is broken!

I tumble into bed at 3am - exhausted, sated and happy. The marathon of holidaying continues tomorrow, Easter Sunday - spit roasted lamb and all the other assorted goodies! Lots of wine, homemade white lightening and cooks outdoing each other with tasty dishes. This Easter business is hard work!

Have a look at this short video I recorded - the audio is wild!

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